For a brief time, The Stone Roses were the biggest band in Britain. By doubling down on the jangle pop of The Smiths and ramping up the soaring melodies and psychedelia, the Roses’ crafted a self-titled debut that pulled judiciously from the past to create a template for the future. By 1990, they’d had hits with “She Bangs the Drums” and the game-changing “Fools Gold” and headlined a massive outdoor concert for nearly 30,000 people at Spike Island. They were the connective tissue between Britpop and the alternative scene of the ’80s. Unfortunately for the band, their good sense did not extend to the business side of making music. Locked into a horrible long-term contract with Silvertone records, the band attempted to jump ship only to be barred by an injunction from releasing any music, a moratorium that would last two years and ultimately contribute to their demise.

Silvertone knew its time with The Stone Roses was limited so they took advantage of the situation the way any crappy record company would: repackage previously released music and sell it to a slavering but unsuspecting public. The result was the compilation Turns into Stone, a collection of previously released singles and B-sides. Though intended as a cash grab and a way for Silvertone to poke at the band, Turns into Stone is a solid collection of music. Perfectly killer songs often end up by the wayside or hard to find simply because they don’t fit the vibe of a record and, like The Smiths before them and Oasis after them, The Stone Roses’ singles and B-sides are some of their best work.

Turns into Stone also functions as a road map of the band’s creative trajectory. It traces the band’s beginnings as purveyors of tight, breezy pop tunes, to experiments with club sounds and the eventual move towards blues-funk lite guitar. While the latter would find a more muscular (and awful) sound on the band’s long-delayed sophomore album, Second Coming, the tone and mixing on these singles and B-sides is much more nuanced (read: not embarrassing).

The collection begins with the 12” version of “Elephant Stone” which was absent from the original UK release of their debut. This version skips the wah-wah and pulls the drums forward, creating a more aggressive sound than the album version. The extended drum intro and outro is clearly aimed at the baggy dance scene with which the band was becoming associated. It’s followed by three tracks of pure pop wizardry; “The Hardest Thing in the World” practically sounds like a Smiths outtake thanks to John Squire’s melodic guitar playing and Ian Brown’s soaring verses; “Going Down” and “Mersey Paradise” take the jangle of The Byrds and marry it to gorgeous harmonies. All three clock in at under three minutes and are deliriously good, pop-perfect tunes that hold up to anything on the debut.

From here, the band starts to expand its sound. After a wailing, distorted, blues-inflected guitar intro comes the twinkling “Standing Here.” Squire’s guitar barely stands still, tumbling like a stream through a green field while the hi-hat and snare of drummer Reni (Alan Wren) skitters nimbly in the background. Brown sounds like a proto-Liam Gallagher with his slightly nasal, breathy delivery of the chorus, “I’m standing here/ I really don’t think you know that I’m in heaven when you smile.”

Then, of course, there’s “Fools Gold,” in its full, nearly 10-minute glory and the exemplar of the Roses’ foray into dance music. Squire’s wiggly, rhythmic guitar line functions more as atmosphere atop Reni’s dance beat and Mani’s (Gary Mounfield) rolling bass line. Over this busy musical bed, Brown laconically delivers his lines, cool as a cucumber. There’s barely a chorus, just constant forward motion until, halfway through, the groove moves to the forefront and Squire’s guitar becomes a knife of electricity, slicing across the track like a lightning bolt in slow motion. While “Fools Gold” is probably the most instantly recognizable song by The Stone Roses, it is also the most anomalous in their discography, akin to The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?”

The dance and psychedelic inclinations of the Roses’ find a more equitable showcase on “One Love.” Reni’s snare-heavy beat marches forward, Mani’s bass tumbles along, Squire spews guitar all over the place and Brown reaches for the upper decks with the chorus, “One love we don’t need another love/ One love one heart and one soul/ We can have it all/ Easy peasy.” The song culminates in a rave-friendly dance party; the drums and bass take center stage while Squire threatens and rumbles like a thunderstorm in the distance. It’s a template the band would attempt to recreate on Second Coming with worse results. It’s a bloated and slick record that finds the band struggling to remember what they do best. The forced time off due to litigation obviously played a large part in handing the Roses’ too much rope. Even though it was done without the band’s input or permission, Turns into Stone is a testament to all the things The Stone Roses did well and an important document of that transitional time period in UK rock music.

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